You might know the kind of couple that’s portrayed in Hope Springs.
I’m talking about the kind who celebrates anniversaries with a gift for the household, such as a new cable subscription or water heater. The kind where the husband parks himself in front of the television and watches hours of sports programming until he falls asleep every night. And when it’s time for bed, they head off to their separate bedrooms and close the doors. Or, maybe you and your spouse are that couple. Either way, you can probably relate to Hope Springs.
Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and Kay (Meryl Streep) are that couple who have simply grown apart after 31 years of marriage, and Kay has had just about enough of it.
Days have turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years since Kay and Arnold were last intimate. Arnold doesn’t see the problem.
In the spirit of rekindling their romance, Kay purchases the book You Can Have the Marriage You Want by the renowned couple’s therapist Dr. Bernard Feld (Steve Carell).
After giving it a read, Kay decides to visit Dr. Feld in person to attend his intensive weeklong couple’s therapy retreat in the idyllic Maine town of Hope Springs. She miraculously convinces Arnold to come along.
So Dr. Feld turns out to really be more of a sex therapist as opposed to a marriage therapist, but that’s where most of the humor comes from in the movie. No topics are off-limits, and Dr. Feld dives right in to asking personal questions such as: When was the last time you were intimate? What are your fantasies? When was your best time? And he gives them interactive homework assignments, too.
You’ll cringe watching these older folks discuss and work out their sexual issues, but the discomfort is part of the fun. And there’s just enough humor to dilute the awkward moments.
Director David Frankel (who worked with Streep in The Devil Wears Prada) is a little heavy-handed with the soft-rock music when sometimes silence would have done the trick. The subdued script from TV writer/producer Vanessa Taylor offers no big ah-ha or twist moments, but it allows the actors to really shine.
I have never thought of Tommy Lee Jones as a romantic lead kind of guy, and that’s probably why he works well here. You imagine that maybe he and Kay used to enjoy each other’s company, but over time he’s become more gruff, less affectionate and content to watch the Golf Channel every night.
Streep, as usual, gives it her all, and yes, I could believe that this 17-time Oscar nominee (three-time winner) works at a clothing store and is stuck in a hum-drum marriage. It’s a testament to her acting that she’s quite believable as a demure, Midwestern grandmotherly type in unfashionable clothes.
It is nice to see a movie about people who are actually willing to work on their marriage instead of throwing around the ‘D’ word or even worse, cheating.
Despite the advanced ages of the two leads, Hope Springs is not just for the AARP crowd, though that crowd is certainly among the targeted audience. It’s racy without being raunchy, and anyone with a sense of humor will find something funny and entertaining about this movie. ••
Movie Grade: B+